Abid Hussain Barlaskar

"We operate in an undifferentiated, utilitarian and rapidly growing category": PhonePe's Richa Sharma

Two key players have set aside Rs 2,000 crore for marketing, of which PhonePe's share is Rs 800 crore.

Digital payments app PhonePe recently announced that it has earmarked Rs 800 crore in marketing this year. It has also launched its "ATM" service, along with the 2020 campaign, featuring ambassadors Aamir Khan and Alia Bhatt. The brand made news around the same time last year with its Daddu Gublu campaign and its assemblage of multiple apps under the PhonePe umbrella.

While speaking with afaqs!, Richa Sharma, head of Brand Marketing, PhonePe, elaborated on the brand's plan for the year. Sharma joined PhonePe from Flipkart in April 2019. She started her advertising career with Contract Advertising before joining a team that led the Hutch to Vodafone changeover. She handled the national brand communications for Vodafone, her "brandversity", as she calls it, for five years, working on the popular 'ZooZoo' campaign. Sharma then joined Flipkart to build the brand development and content marketing verticals, and leading the brand refresh in 2015.

Richa Sharma
Richa Sharma

According to an ASSOCHAM-PwC India study, the Indian digital payments market is currently valued at $64.8 billion. It is projected to grow at a CAGR of 20.2 per cent to reach $135.2 billion in 2023. Much of PhonePe's marcom spends is aimed at fuelling growth and acquiring first-time users from Tier 2, 3 cities and beyond. The brand is also looking at enhancing the experience of existing users by adding services and product features, while marketing them to both businesses and its 200 million users. PhonePe's arch-rival and market leader Paytm (with 140 million monthly active users) has also been flexing its marketing muscle by announcing that it has set aside Rs 1,200 crore for marketing this year.

"Our approach to marketing is led by both consumer as well as partner (merchants, brands, BFSI players) objectives. With that in mind, all our spends (communications-related and otherwise) will be done to reach customers and partners with the relevant messaging, while also driving growth for partners. We are also enabling user education by investing in content, and driving consideration and value at all transaction points - offline or online as we build a larger and wider payment acceptance network," Sharma elaborates.

This reflects in the platform's ads, too. The current brand campaign includes four TVCs, three of which are set in small-town India (places like Varanasi and others) and feature services like PhonePe Switch, bill payments, gift cards, among others. The ads seem to be educating existing users about the various services offered by the brand. In one of the ads (featuring Aamir in Varanasi), there is a shopkeeper, who, despite using PhonePe, is unaware of a key service. The ads have also been adapted to regional languages like Bengali and Telugu.

Sharma explains that it’s not just about transactions, but also about the ways of offering convenience, access, safety and choice to users. "The power of the platform is when cross-pollination happens. Some people may know of certain features on PhonePe, while others may know of others. This willing mutual exchange of knowledge to discover and grow is something very forthcoming and natural for all of us as Indians," she says.

"Also, we operate in a largely undifferentiated and utilitarian category, which is going through a phenomenal growth spurt."
Richa Sharma

Speaking on the platform's TG and the choice of messaging, Sharma says, "Our target audience is anyone above the age of 18 years with a smartphone using the mobile internet. With such a broad set of users, it becomes important to understand consumer needs at a granular level and offer value in the context of their lives. Also, we operate in a largely undifferentiated and utilitarian category, which is going through a phenomenal growth spurt. There are plenty of opportunities and we want to focus on driving our brand narrative of being a partner in accelerating progress and reach out to millions of new users."

"Our choice and use of media across mediums like TV, print, digital, OOH and radio, depends on the audience mix, efficiency and storytelling opportunities they have to offer. Cricket continues to be a passion point and, therefore, the association with IPL in 2020," Sharma signs off.

While the 2019 campaign was crafted by Lowe Lintas Bangalore, this year's campaign, built around the brand's new tagline 'Karte Ja Badhte Ja, PhonePe', was crafted by Leo Burnett, PhonePe's creative agency on record. PhonePe also works with experts and specialists on a project-by-project basis for "desired outcomes on specific challenges".

Campaign credits:

Managing Director India and Chief Strategy Officer Leo Burnett South Asia: Dheeraj Sinha

Managing Director India and Chief Creative Officer Leo Burnett South Asia: Rajdeepak Das

National Creative Director: Sachin Kamble, Prajato Thakurta Guha

Creative Team: Archit Gadiyar, Vinit Sanghvi, Shivani Gairola, Saumya Aggarwal, Sayan Sengupta, Harshada Shinde, Shatrughan Tripathi, Suvankar Bagchi

Senior Vice President: Maninder Bali

Account Management: Aman Sheikh, Siddharth Kunkunkar, Hitesh Ramrakhayani, Shreyash Goenka, Lalimaa Nandgaonkar

Planning: Noor Samra, Ishita Shukla

Production house: Crazy Few Films

Director: Anupam Mishra

Producers: Urfi Kazmi and Viraj Gawas